Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar: An Emperor learns to love, and then to rule!

The movie goes at quite a nice pace in the first half. I found myself waiting for what is gonna happen next scene. Each and every character adds color to the film, which already quite colorful, considering the fact that it is the splendor of the Mughal and Rajput Empire being protrayed. Each and every scene is so natural that you would believe you were actually in those times. The shades are not too gawdy, nor too simple. They're just perfect. For sheer eye candy, I wouldn't go far than this movie. Hrithick and Aishwarya as King and Queen of Hindustan is a sight to behold.

I coudln't single out any character as having a special role, apart from the lead pair themselves, who are two pillars of strength, and stamp their dominance on the movie like the Twin Towers do to the Kuala Lampur landscape. Hrithick Roshan as Emperor Akbar the Great is astounding that you start believing that even the real Akbar would have approved from the heavens. He is near perfect sounding like a King whenever he has to (that's something new I've seen in him- his commanding voice is an asset), looks, walks and loves like one. Aishwarya Rai as Jodha is very good, but once or twice, she is too artificial. Otherwise she is perfect as well.

And since when is Hindi cinema gonna learn the art of subtlety? Why is it that for every song sequence someone has to be portrayed as singing the lines? Why cant the lines ever reverbrate in the air for once? I had loved listening to the Azeem O Shan Shahenshah, and was eager to see how it had been picturised, and the first sight that greeted me turned me off.I had expected the song to be singing in the background while Akbar rode majestically on his horse flanked by his army.
Sadly, I had forgotten this was Bollywood.

After all how good is a bollywood film if it didn't have some people singing sentimentally of the hero as their saviour et al. This is exactly what that differentiates a Hollywood movie from Bollywood (Kollywood is an entirely different issue- it is a class in itself, and lets refrain from talking about it here). It is very well understood that the reforms brought about by Akbar are well received by the people. There was no need for a group of people singing in praise of him- in the most sentimental manner (typical of Bollywood), with a beaming Hrithick Roshan sitting in the centre of a dias. For once such a scene could be warranted here, but after having seen countless such sequences in other Bollywood films in the most irrelevant of times, this one is also taken in the same vein.

The story is thin- after all, there's little evidence of an epic love story betwixt Akbar and Jodha (yet they justify the movie by saying history forgot their love, and that they created history in silence. Somehow, you are bound to believe it, after the way Akbar was shown in Mughal-e-Azam as a King who pays more importance to royal matters, than matters of love. Of course- why should the Emperor leave traces about his private affairs?), so the writers had to concoct a lot of scenes to make it screen-worthy. However, they are going far when they seem to say that Jodha was the reason Akbar began to show more concern towards his subjects, something like a fatherly concern than a King's. Ridiculous!

While the idea looks fine for a fictional movie, it is an insult to Akbar's greatness by saying Jodha was the prime reason behind it. Although it is true that Akbar was the first King to rule by love, and not by force- like his illustrious grandfather Babar (Humayun was always too ill to actually rule), it is blasphemous to say that Jodha changed his mindset. Why the movie makers could as well as have said "You people can start calling Jodhabai as Jodha the great and start idolising her instead of Akbar". I know writers have some liberty, but this is pushing it.

The fact that she was one of Akbar's chief queens, and that Akbar's heir Jehangir (The Salim of the Salim-Anarkali romance) was her progeny shows that he loved her deeply, or had utmost respect for Rajputs, and their power, and hence wanted to appease them at all costs. But that is no reason to say that Akbar would listen to every whim and fancy of hers, or that she was the mastermind behind Akbar. Akbar was surrounded by great contemporaries- the likes of Birbal, Man Singh, Todar Mal, Tansen etc. and from constant association with such intelligentsia Akbar became cognisant with the intricacies of ruling a land as diverse as the mighty India. He himself thought of such great ideas like a unified religion Din-e-lahi which was far ahead of its time.

Also, the movie seems to say that Akbar's most important contribution was to remove the tax levied to Hindus as virtue of their religion, and that he was called Akbar the Great after that. Such indifference to matters of history do not go unnoticed, and it's a heinous lie if the producers ever mention that a lot of research had gone into the making. Bah Humbug!The movie is cluttered with so many research flaws. I've never heard of a woman of royal lineage making a public appearence anywhere, let alone in a battlefield. And of course, even if they did ever come to public meetings they always had to wear the purdah to cover their face.

The climactic duel between Akbar and Shareefuddin is so cinematic that children who watch the movie would think Akbar was another fairy tale character like Krish. Its so quintessentially bollywood- with Jodha and Banu (Akbar's sister and Shareefuddin's wife) watching their husbands joust, that it stinks of unrealism (royal women in the battlefield??). Oh for crying out loud! The whole second half rings out loud in the ears with such serious flaws. I've never heard of an assassination attempt at Akbar's life. But I may not know (being an avid reader of history), and the producers may know better :)

The songs bear the mark of a master artist- AR Rahman. Each one is worth a separate post. Azeem O Shan is the inspiring kind of number with powerful drum beats that are part of the welcome party for kings. Its quite versatile too, and never sags. It takes my No.1 slot because its been quite some time since such a power ballad came to the Hindi film industry that has been strewn with love songs. Khwaja is an exotic number, a typical ghazal rendition by AR Rahman himself. The rest of the songs are good as well, and all are melodies.

Verdict: Should be watched once, could be watched more if you like flicks on royal matters, maybe watched many times if you like Hrithick or Aishwarya.

No comments: